The Anticolonial Resistance and the Paradigm of the PKK

Originally published in Lêgerîn Issue No 1. The Lêgerîn mission statement is “Difusión de la ideología de la revolución en Rojava, y de las ideas de Rêber Apo, el Confederalismo Democrático.” The original article and magazine can be viewed here. They are also available in Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

The context in Latin America and Africa is very similar, in many respects, to that of the Middle East. These similarities exist because of the inhuman exploitation of the European nation-states in their period of colonialist and imperialist expansion. Since the beginning of the “discovery” of the African and American continents, the original peoples have been suffering from the external intervention of capitalist states and their economic interests, motivated by monopoly aspirations. Because of the process of extermination and assimilation carried out in both continents, the consequences of this horrible period can be seen up to today.

Not surprisingly, from the beginning of the occupation of the territory, the natives offered great resistance to the “civilized” mentality and to their capitalist understanding of “progress”. This was one of the reasons why the colonizers committed several genocides (physical and cultural). The cultures found in the territory were diverse, from the state structures of the Aztec Empire in what is now Mexico to the Kingdom of Benin in what is now Nigeria. Dozens of already organized states were subjected to colonial domination through force, extermination and genocide. Among them, the Luba Empire, the Lunda Empire, the Kingdom of Cazembe, the Kingdom of Congo, the Inca and the Mayan
Civilization. In addition to the great empires that existed (some with more than 4 thousand years of existence), thousands of tribes lived in these territories and organized themselves in different ways.

However, it is common to find tribes that lived in common, as is the case in Brazil. With about 300 different ethnic groups and 270 different languages, most of the tribes survived from subsistence agriculture, there was no centralized form of power, the economy was based on exchange and equitable division of surplus, religion was not dogmatic or monotheistic, the education of children was the responsibility of the community, no time was not linear and animism was common to all tribes. In the African continent, tribal organization was the common way of managing the
existing societies and many were subject to the great empires of the region, (already mentioned
above) very similar to the process of domination of the empires that existed in the Middle East region throughout history (Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Ottoman, etc.). However, multiculturalism and the diversity of these tribes and ethnicities have remained present within these societies and many still survive the process of assimilation today. It is not difficult to find similarities between these forms of organization and the societies that inhabited Mesopotamia in the Neolithic period, the difference is that instead of a city-state being the colonizer, in the case of Africa and Latin America, the nation-states were the colonizers with their capitalist and ultra-nationalist mentality.

The Similarities Between These
Regions and Kurdistan

Although they succeeded in gaining their independence from the colonizing states, some before others, they now face countless problems on both continents. Among them, extreme poverty, social inequality, economic dependence, violence, neo-colonialism, etc. Although these processes occurred in different forms and ways, we can find some similarities between them and try to understand why these societies are in the current situation. One of the points we can analyses is the formation of the nation states as their solution for national liberation, here, we can observe a parallelism between the Kurdish question and Rêber Apo’s understanding of the nation state. In the early days of the party and the Kurdish liberation movement, the idea of creating a Kurdish state to defend the interests of the Kurdish people was seen as a possibility of obtaining decent living conditions. Since the Kurdish people have been denied their own rights of existence. Their language, culture, tradition, social organization, were forbidden. They were criminalized for being who they are, in their own territory – divided between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. This reminds us of a Zapatista saying: “To be seen, we cover our faces; to be named, we deny them our names; we bet on the present, so that we have a future? and to live, we die. Once again, the similarities of the inhumane systematic form of capitalism became evident. In Kurdistan or Chiapas, this system enslaves and kills everything and everyone who dares to think differently.

However, over time and a process of deep analysis, by critics and self-critics, the idea of the nation-state was
reconsidered. The state is incapable of offering life in a free society, once its formation is directly related to a process
of assimilation, authoritarianism, subjugation of diversity, nationalism and especially patriarchy. As such, it is the main perpetrator of the mentality that enslaves and exploits people. Even some independence movements that had a progressive ideal, such as Haiti in 1804 (it was the first Latin American country to declare independence and the first to end slavery), could not escape imperialist exploitation and submitted to the external interests of other states so that it could be recognized by other states and exist as a nation-state.

Beyond the Nation-State

It is not possible to be free while being organized as a nation state, it is necessary to build an alternative to the state and its mentality. This alternative is the reorganization of society around the political and moral society (ahlaq), this can be observed initially in the primitive socialism in the societies of the neolithic period. From this analysis, democratic confederalism emerges, the Rebêr Apo paradigm expressed and implemented by the Kurdistan liberation movement in all its dimensions, from the Bakur Mountains to the Rojava revolution. This is why these democratic ideas of the party can contribute to the advancement of society in Latin America and Africa and develop a truly free space. Even more so because these are societies rich in multicultural diversity, with communal origins and a strong heritage of resistance, as well as Kurdish society. Since the reorganization of the party around the new paradigm, it is not difficult to observe and see these similarities between Kurds, Latinos and Africans. All of them went through an extremely violent colonization process, they had (and still have) their territories occupied and exploited, they have serious problems related to the patriarchal mentality. However, Rêber Apo’s ideas are not so well known in Latin America and Africa, due to the small or non-existent Kurdish community in these places. It is crucial that we try to connect with the existing struggles in these societies and develop together the alternatives to live free from the oppression and slavery of the capitalist system. Both continents have many stories of resistance, anti-colonial movements, guerrillas who fought for national liberation and original societies that still resist and try to keep their beliefs, way of life and form of organization alive.

These ideas would certainly be welcomed by the Latin and African people, as women’s liberation, ecology and freedom are issues that are already being addressed by existing movements. An easy example to note is the growing empowerment of feminist movements on both continents, as can be seen in Chile, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, etc. However, as much as they can mobilize millions of women in the streets and have achieved some improvements throughout history, they still find themselves chained to the patriarchal system and unfortunately see dozens of women being killed every day by this disgusting system. It is not by chance that these movements know the Kurdish Women’s Movement well, and no doubt, from this awareness, more fruitful relations of unity, mutual aid, bases of international solidarity, etc. could be created. These would be the first steps towards leading a unified struggle against the patriarchal state and internationalizing the women’s revolution that is taking place in the Kurdish movement.

The problems caused by the capitalist mentality can easily be observed, for example, the destruction of the environment and the global climatic consequences generated by unrestrained exploitation in the name of so-called “progress”. The same term and the same mentality that the colonizers had in the 16th century… with the passage of time, the terms could change, but the practice and the mentality is usually the same until today.

The Global Revolt of ’68 and the Youth Spirit

As in Europe, the front line of the struggles inspired by ‘68 in Latin America and Africa were young people. Bending their youthful spirit, their will to change, their dreams of revolution and hope, they were the heart of this moment and the first ones interested in building an alternative. But they lacked an understanding of the mentality of the capitalist system as a whole, beyond mercantilism. So even though they had well-intentioned actions and attitudes, it was not enough to break the system’s cycle and create a real alternative. This was the “mistake” the party understood, so that we could learn from it and the youth could redirect all their strength of spirit to revolution. At many points, the youth occupied a crucial space in the struggle against the capitalist system. Among them, the most recent one was known as the Students’ Spring, where thousands of schools were occupied by students from Chile, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Angola and some other countries, fighting for better educational conditions, a curricular table focused on their human and social capacities, which is totally opposite to the commercial logic established in our daily life. The youthful spirit could be noticed in every action carried out by the students, from the reforms made in the abandoned public schools of the State to the physical resistance in the streets during the mobilizations where the police used all their devices to attack them. This spirit is present in the youth up to now. It is not by chance that those who initiated this gigantic and beautiful mobilization in Chile, and who have been occupying the “streets” for the last months until now, were the youth (most of them were women with 15 to 18 years old). Once again it is evident that there is a need for long-term proposals and projects, as well as a paradigm, otherwise these movements will have the same end as those of ‘68. Once again, we can clearly see the flames of hope. The hope of building a true democratic alternative.

Since 2008, with the prolonged financial crises, all the relationships already established between capitalism, liberalism, sexism and conservatism have deepened and become polarized. Consequently, there is a more urgent need to understand the struggle in a deeper way and to learn from other experiences, especially the theories and practices of the Kurdish movement in the last 42 years, influenced by thousands of years of historical resistance in defense of free and communal society.

United Line for the Democratic Nation

Democratic confederalism offers a way to organize these societies, respecting their characteristics and
multiculturalism . It is increasingly clear that Rêber Apo’s ideas, although developed from Kurdish society, can be applied to other societies because of their universalism, their recognition of the existence of differences in society, the importance of women’s liberation (without it, it is impossible to overcome the current state and system), the negation of dogmatic ideas and the creation of a revolutionary personality focused on its morals and ethics, one way of visualizing the veracity of this is, for example, the participation of internationalist hevals (friends) in the party and the exchange of experiences this creates within the party. This is one of the beautiful faces of the movement, the way everyone has a space and a voice within the party, in the struggle for human freedom. The natural characteristics of the Latin and African people, such as the joy of the people, the comradeship, the celebrational of life and an internal flame that calls for a change in society, would be more than welcomed by Rebêr Apo’s understanding and would complement with more colors, the rainbow that is the Kurdish struggle. People from all continents and from all corners of the global earth working together, communally, to build a real alternative to the capitalist system.